This book is the first full-length study of the 1947 drawing of the Indo-Pakistani boundary in Punjab. It uses the Radcliffe commission, headed by Sir Cyril Radcliffe , as a window onto the decolonisation and independence of India and Pakistan. Examining the competing interests that influenced the actions of the various major players, the book highlights British efforts to maintain a grip on India even as the decolonisation process spun out of control. It examines the nature of power relationships within the colonial state, with a focus on the often-veiled exertion of British colonial power. With conflict between Hindus , Muslims and Sikhs reaching unprecedented levels in the mid-1940s , British leaders felt compelled to move towards decolonization. The partition was to be perceived as a South Asian undertaking, with British officials acting only as steady and impartial guides. Radcliffe's use of administrative boundaries reinforced the impact of imperial rule. The boundaries that Radcliffe defined turned out to be restless divisions, and in both the 1965 and 1971 wars India and Pakistan battled over their Punjabi border. After the final boundary, known as the 'Radcliffe award', was announced, all sides complained that Radcliffe had not taken the right 'other factors' into account. Radcliffe's loyalty to British interests is key to understanding his work in 1947. Drawing on extensive archival research in India, Pakistan and Britain, combined with innovative use of cartographic sources, the book paints a vivid picture of both the partition process and the Radcliffe line's impact on Punjab.
colonial power. Specifically, I trace the reluctant cooperation of South
Asian elites with British leaders in setting up the Radcliffecommission. The decisions made by these elites, operating under British
pressure, in some cases ran counter to popular welfare. This work
therefore seeks to add complexity to debates about the nature of
colonial power and postcolonial legacies.
Second, I contend that it was
participant acidly observed, ‘I do not think that anyone really
expected these eminent but sessile judges to go around in dhotis
and sherwanis [traditional Indian garb] digging holes and putting
up concrete markers, which is what “demarcating”
The Radcliffecommission was clearly concerned with delimitation, not
demarcation; demarcation was left to India and Pakistan, after
perspective,’ Security Studies 17:2 (2008): 322–62; I. Talbot, Provincial Politics and the Pakistan Movement: The Growth of the Muslim League in North-West and North-East India 1937–47 (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1988); H.J. Morgenthau, ‘Military illusions,’ New Republic 134:12 (1956): 15–16.
15 Ishtiaq Ahmed, Pakistan the Garrison State: Origins, Evolution, Consequences 1947–2011 (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2013), pp. 73–8; Staniland, ‘Explaining civil-military relations.’ For a detailed account of the RadcliffeCommission, see A. Lamb
project a false image of order in the
midst of chaos than it does to the location of the boundary. Certainly
there is an important relationship between violence and the boundary
commission, but it runs in a different direction than one might assume.
In reaction to the simmering violence of 1946 and early 1947, the
British constructed a façade of control, of which the Radcliffecommission was a central
division, while in Pakistan one sees the reverse
side of the same coin: a sense of gain, of pride in a newly created
state. But in Pakistani historiography as well there is a sense of loss; as
the historian Hugh Tinker writes, ‘Pakistan is unique as a country
with a sense of bitterness and grievance for territories that have never
formed part of its polity.’ 3 Immediately after partition, the Radcliffe
RadcliffeCommission, it is clear, was a device to load the onus of the
details of Partition on to the shoulders of a non-”Indian”
so as to leave Mountbatten blameless of responsibility for unpopular
decisions.’ 16 Certainly Radcliffe understood the depth of his
unpopularity in both Pakistan and India; when asked in the early 1960s
whether he would like to return to India, he reportedly replied,
’s judicial façade was
breaking down in public.
The Radcliffecommission, and Radcliffe in particular,
served as a useful scapegoat not only for the British, but also for the
Pakistani and Indian governments. British leaders originally hoped to
shift the blame for problems with partition to the nationalist
leaders, 15 but
even after it became clear that the line was largely